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24 Apr 2009
The Iraqi-First Initiative
One of the many amazing things accomplished here in Basra is that in the midst of transitioning from UK to US, and growing the COB, and consolidating Multinational Division-Central and MultiNational Division-Southeast into MultiNational Division-South, and moving the 10th MTN division here, and bringing in a new force of soldiers to mentor and work with our Iraqi partners, that we’ve also taken on a whole new face to contracting.

You’ve probably heard about the use of contractors here, from KBR to Blackwater and many others. As Basra transitioned March 31st, though, we implemented a contracting practice that puts Iraqi-based businesses out front. “Iraqi-First” gives preference to our host nation, not only helping them develop business and service skills, but keeping the contracting money in Iraq. This initiative has not been painless, as several winners had not previously held a contract with us before. They had to quickly spin up a new workforce, tools, security processing, and their own support structure, such as parts-ordering for air conditioners and electric generators.

The result, though, is pretty amazing! We are witnessing a fantastic transformation that is yet another step towards Iraq being self-reliant and economically stable.
ACI , Army Deployment , General
posted by  henry at  09:11 | permalink | trackbacks [865]

22 Apr 2009
Ethan made a video for the annual Reflections contest in his school. He loves stop-action Lego and building it into a film. He and Eric both have several videos in my YouTube profile, “CustomWebProgrammer.” This year’s theme was simply “WOW.” So Ethan got busy and put together a 40-second clip with a clever message. He submitted it last Fall, and just this week, heard from our District-level announcements that his film took the top prize in Intermediate-level schools across the Commonwealth of Virginia! His film is now competing at the national level. And Eric? He has been selected the Student of the Month for April at Christiansburg Middle School. Lisa and I are extremely proud of both boys.

Army Deployment , Family , General
posted by  henry at  13:31 | permalink | trackbacks [10824]

21 Apr 2009
Quantum Leap, Quantum Overload.
Remember the Quantum Leap series? It was a Belisarius TV show that had a great run of several seasons. The intro started off:

Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished .... He woke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.

Lisa writes that she often get emails and packages where she exclaims - much like Sam - "Oh, boy." She felt that way recently after hearing another request to volunteer as the lead for an upcoming project, sandwiched between two other major events. She says it got her rewriting her own Quantum Leap voice-over (courtesy of Lisa):
Theorizing that one could be a single-parent during a military member’s deployment, Lisa Bass stepped into the Deployment Accelerator and went astray .... She woke to find herself trapped in a world that doesn’t understand the reservist’s life, facing problems that never materialized before, and driven by an unknown force that challenges every ounce of her sanity. Her only companions on this journey are Eric and Ethan, kids with their own unique coping skills, who appear in different forms of cooperation and moods that only Lisa can guess. And so Lisa Bass finds herself leaping from day to day, striving to put right anything that goes wrong and hoping each time that her next leap will be into the arms of her military spouse when he comes home.

Army Deployment , Family , General
posted by  henry at  12:46 | permalink | trackbacks [333]

19 Apr 2009
Body weight as a military performance metric
I set a goal with my family of losing 10 pounds on this deployment. At Ft. Lewis, during our train-up, I was able to go to the gym about 6 days a week and regulate my diet closely. The big factor being Lisa’s good cooking was absent! So I dropped from 226 down to 217 or so. In our training, they told us there was considerable discretionary time, and were cautioned to use it wisely.

Once in Iraq, the sparse conditions of Basra, and being constantly on the move for convoys and meetings, plus wearing the body armor everywhere, I managed to drop down to 204, with only once or twice a week at the gym. That’s all there was time for! The discretionary time, at least for me, was non-existent. Since December, it has been 90-hour weeks.

Now, with American food and its fattening temptations at the dining facility, after a brief celebratory splurge, I’m eating pretty close to “right” with salads for lunch, healthy, low-carb breakfasts, and balanced dinners. But there’s the occasional sodas, Gatorades, and ice cream or cake, much more abundant now. So my weight has gone back up a bit, to 207. Still well within the regulations, but a disturbing trend. In fact, many soldiers in more built-up areas than Basra report a 20 pound weight-gain during the deployment. The menu is richer, with more prepared foods, corn syrup in lots of the sauces, and some very good fried chicken and mozerilla sticks!

The key, I believe, is not to use meal-times as an escape or crutch. Drink water, not soda, and, for me, avoid the sugar substitutes. For some reason, stopping the “diet” drinks and no-sugar drink mixes made a positive difference.
I’ve met my initial goal, but getting below 200 is my “stretch goal” – and I think I can do it.

My job is changing, too. I'm getting out of the convoy business and more into the division-level logistics. Serving more as the commander's eyes & ears at Division HQ, and as of yesterday, I've finally got another officer helping me on this (But that's another blog).
Without jinxing it, I'm cautiously optimistic that there's a little more discretionary time ahead for me.
And I intend to use it wisely; at the gym, staying in touch with family, and working on a business certification for ACI. Oh yeah: Occasionally relaxing.
ACI , Army Deployment , Family , General
posted by  henry at  07:36 | permalink | trackbacks [51383]

14 Apr 2009
Small World
Last February, I sat down to dinner, started talking to the soldier next to me, and found out he was from Christiansburg, the same town as me! Population is around 11,000, so that’s no small feat! I found out that he belonged to a unit that just arrived from Virginia National Guard Military Police.
By meeting SFC Phoenix, that’s how I learned that a unit from my home state was right here in our little COB. Later, this Military Police (MP) company were the ones nice enough to share Major General Newman to promote me to Lieutenant Colonel.
I’ve seen SFC Tazwell Phoenix many more times around the base, and thought I’d give another Christiansburg resident here in Basra the chance to say hello!
He says hi to his family, his two sons (Kyle & Cameron), and a huge hello to his girlfriend Amy Fleet who works at the VT College of Science.
Way to go SFC Phoenix, and all the rest of the 266th MP Company!
Army Deployment , Family , General
posted by  henry at  13:00 | permalink | trackbacks [139]

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